Wednesday’s Book Review: “John Ford”

John FordJohn Ford. By Peter Bogdanovich. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978.

The accomplished film director Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon to name only two) interviewed legendary director John Ford in the latter 1960s. This book is the result. They conversed on the many great films that Ford directed. The author divides the discussion into chapters on their meeting in Monument Valley, the nature of Ford’s westerns, the poetic and comedic nature present in his films, how he accomplished his word, and a retrospective of his career.

This is very much a loving account of John Ford, his life, and his films. There are a few important insights, such as Bogdanovich’s observation that all great directors are also great actors. In Ford’s case this was the front that he put up to all around him and the hard image he had for many of his actors that masked a soft heart. Mostly, however, this is a mythmaking account that discusses Ford’s films in order, while interspersing observations from the director himself.

This is enjoyable and certainly a work that works well with other accounts of Ford’s life and work. For insight into his films, the best work remains Joseph McBride’s Searching for John Ford: A Life (1999). For details about Ford’s life I would recommend John Ford: Hollywood’s Old Master (1995) by Ronald K. Davis and John Ford: The Man and His Films (1986) by Tag Gallagher. Bogdanovich’s John Ford is a highly personal and personable account of a film icon.

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